Tuesday’s general election gave voters the opportunity to choose the candidates they support for president, Congress, the state Legislature, and county positions, not to mention a chance to pass judgment on a state constitutional amendment and a referendum here or there.
It all looks so straightforward as voters, with pens in hand, mark their choices. Election Day is the people’s day, right?
Not as much as it should be.
When one reads between the lines on those ballots, a disconcerting trend emerges.
Why did voters have no choice in the 45th Senate District, where state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, was the only candidate?
Why did voters have no choice in the 37th Senate District, where state Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, was the only candidate?
Why did voters have no choice in the 89th House District, where state Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, was the only candidate?
This was the first election after the 2011 redistricting, after all. With newly-drawn districts, you would expect heightened competition.
But locally and statewide, that was not the case.
Thirty of 59 Senate elections had only one candidate.
Sixty-nine of the 118 House of Representatives elections had only one candidate.
Think about it. Voters in more than half the Senate and House districts had no choice in Tuesday’s election.
That was no accident.
Certain regions of the state are naturally dominated by one party or the other, but the process by which Illinois politicians redraw districts reduces competition even more.
Democrats who control state government drew the maps last year. They packed Republican voters into as few districts as possible. They spread Democratic influence as wide as possible. Their goal: more Democratic-held seats in the state House and Senate, not to mention the U.S. House.
By purposefully reducing competition, politicians may gain, but democracy loses.
A nonpartisan redistricting process is the solution.
We renew our call for creation of an Iowa-style commission that removes politicians from map-drawing duties, maximizes competition, promotes accountability, and puts the public’s interest first.